Month: February 2013

Failure Porn/Brief Lament on Schadenfreude

We like to laugh at failure. I think it’s appropriate when a family values candidate’s campaign is derailed when he is discovered to be having an affair, or an oil company CEO is arrested for drunk driving. But in the cases like that of Bulletball, Kyle Maynard, or this old Ebaums-era vestige, the habit is smug and rotten.

Perhaps laughing at routed rebels grants us the comfortable feeling of mental superiority over not having picked a fight against Patriarch Probability. Perhaps we are reassured and invigorated through the faulty notion that his or her demise spares us more opportunity on this crowded, competitive planet.

The failures of others serve as patches for our insecurities.

Rock On, Joel Bauman

As individualist as WEIRD societies are — and despite cultural rhetoric which celebrates and envies the rebelliousness and reckless careening of the Steven Jobs, Death Grips, and Copernicus’ of the world, we tend to treat the less revered folk who have less political, artistic, or financial capital with a touch of silly derision and discouragement.

‘You gotta pay your dues, we tell them. Suck it up. It’s just the way it is, things will never be the same.

But in the case of Joel Bauman, wrestler for the University of Minnesota, I am wholly behind his cause, skin and gut.

This quote won me over: “‘I have a plan to figure this whole thing out, to be able to do both,’ [Bauman] said. ‘But my message is more important than my eligibility in the long run. So if I can’t, then so be it.'”

Bauman’s platform is endearingly simple. His music, his videos, and his PR combine into a wholesome, non-contradictory package that stays free from the pinnings of an attention-grabbing stunt. In a province where the dance of politico-psychopathology takes up such a large portion of media, and in turn, mind share, where no politician, clergyman, company, can articulate a position without triggering suspicions of ulterior motives, engendering meta-analyses by pundits — Bauman is a can of Monterey air amidst Beijing smog.

Stand up to The Man, Joel Bauman. I hope you win. And stay concussion free for the foreseeable future. (An obligatory Fuck CTE.)

Goodbye, Dear Friend

Last night, I said goodbye to a very good friend of mine, the last of an era.

I wish her well.

I was sad for a moment. Then, waiting at the train station, I saw and heard a man mumbling along to Linkin Park. A Catholic man with a stain on his forehead to commemorate Ash Wednesday smiled and stared at me. A trio of smokers gossiped loudly outside a bar.

The sadness was brief. I was reminded, this was only the beginning.

The Misguided Talk of LinkedIn Influencers

“Be Fearless”

“Embrace Failure”

“Jump off a Cliff”

“Take a Dive”

“Just Jump You Motherfucker”

“Disregard Common Sense”

“Reject the Establishment”

“Drop Out of College”

I see articles and posts with titles like those strewn and shared across the LinkedIn and Quora’s of the Internet.

And I’m a bit irked by them. Part of the reason has to do with their source and authorship — they are frequently written by almighty “Influencers,” entrepreneurs, visionaries, DIY self-starting wunderkinds who built their respective Web 2.0 fortunes before their second birthdays and first Lego sets. I definitely react to manifestos and proclamations differently when they are delivered by feminists, artists, or Björk.

When entrepreneurs attempt to wave the banner of Renegades and Rebels, or perhaps their preferred term, “Disrupters,” it just seems a bit disingenuous. Perhaps, those guys were rebels at the outsets when they went ahead and founded their companies. But even then, they got rich, sold their companies, and once more rejoined the establishment (in case they had ever left). Consequently, I’m more inclined to regard them as short-term, temp rebels then habitual ones.

Additionally, I find those articles repulsive because they encourage irresponsible, impulsive behavior. Planning is usually downplayed by the authors to emphasize a crowd-pleasing and obsequious “drop your bags, you are smarter than any knows” approach. Roll your die, take risks, capitalize on your whims, the Influencers say, but I have a hunch that they would not stake their same claims if probability had not been so kind a friend to their lives.

I won’t lie, I have been seduced by my share of beautifully written Raise-All-Hell graduation speeches and pep talks (see the Holstee Manifesto), especially when they come from a figure I respect, and I expect to be seduced again from time to time in the future. I am certainly not above reproach.

That said, my fallibility does not make those pieces any less prosaic. I stand by my wish that fewer interns and middle managers read, devour, and upvote them. After all, they only appear as often as they do because people, hungry for self-validation as fellow Visionaries, Disrupters, Creatives, click on them to provide traffic.

It’s not that the posts are a major problem by themselves. Rather, they’re part of the problem. They reinforce the cultural priority of getting rich as soon as possible, which promotes the stampede of headless chickens without skills or patience. The Influencers, with their experience, should know that dealing with headless chickens is not good for business, economics, or the society at large.

The grander, overarching problem bears no repeating.

I hope that the Influencers will instead eventually use their agency and wisdom (that is, if it is in their wisdom) to advocate for the importance of balance and long-term planning before making professional and financial decisions.

“Damn the torpedoes! Slow down.”

“Throw some caution to the wind.”

“America … hell yeah!”

Perhaps less romantic. Certainly lamer. Less Braveheart, less Social Network, and get the fuck out Gladiator.

But also more pragmatic.